New research has revealed the treats that dogs can’t get enough of, the top brands of biscuits, and how pet-parents can most effectively use treats to train their dogs, ahead of International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day.

Analysts at kennel manufacturer Benchmark Kennels have surveyed dog owners to find their favourite treats, and talked to professional dog trainer Ali Smith and animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers to reveal how best to train your dog using treats.

Key Findings

  • Chicken is a dog’s favourite treat, with over 1 in 5 (20.33%) canines choosing this as their top snack.
  • This is closely followed by hotdogs (15.67%) and cheese (15.33%).
  • Benchmark Kennels compiled data from dog owners on which treats their dogs are most willing to recall and complete a command for.
  • Benchmark Kennels spoke to professional dog trainer Ali Smith about training your puppy with treats, and clinical Animal Behaviourist Rachel Rodgers about the most effective treats for teaching different commands and training your dog in different environments.

Obedience training can be very trying, so to gain some insight into this part of puppy parenthood, Benchmark Kennels decided to reach out to the founder of Rebarkable and overall puppy expert, Ali Smith.

“Certain breeds are definitely easier to train, but there is no ‘disobedient’ breed. Just some who are bred to be independent and some who are bred to work closely with you.

“More biddable breeds include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, toy poodles, border collies – essentially the breeds that are often deemed ‘smart’ breeds, and the more aloof or independent breeds like Huskies, Harriers, Shiba Inu, and a whole host of terriers are usually equally smart, it can just be more difficult to find their wavelength.”

Treats can provide the perfect reward and incentive for pups to follow commands. Creating this positive connection between food and obedience can speed up the training process massively.

However, some dogs are also more inclined to work for food than others, such as greedy labradors and pugs! These breeds happily see treats as their reward whereas working dogs such as spaniels, shepherds and collies might find a toy and a good game of tug and war more enticing. The key to the training process is finding what motivates your dog in particular.

The environment in which a dog is taught has a direct impact on their concentration levels and as a result, their ability to learn and absorb new tricks or habits. The Benchmark team contacted clinical Animal Behaviourist and fellow expert in all things dog, Rachel Rodgers, to expand on why certain treats are more effective in different environments.

“When teaching something new, or taking known tricks into an unfamiliar, distracting environment such as a park, we need to use higher value products such as meat-based treats. When in a familiar place like the home, lower value treats such as more traditional, shop-bought biscuits like milk and gravy bones can work well.”

While it may seem like treats are not compelling your dog like they should, it may be the case that what you are offering is simply not tempting enough to command your pooch’s attention, especially while they are in an interesting environment. It is a good idea to vary the treats that you give your pup to ensure that each remains interesting and does not lose its effect.

Barking at the doorbell, begging at the dinner table, jumping up at guests – we’ve all been there! However, specific dog treats can be used to fix these behavioural issues.

While these issues can be frustrating, it is essential to consider why a dog might be acting in such a way. After ruling out potential causes of pain or fear, it is worth considering that your pooch is oblivious to the fact that they are doing anything wrong.

Rachel Rodgers explains:

“We should never punish a badly behaved dog because in the majority of situations, the reason that the dog is ‘badly behaved’ is that they have not been taught the right thing to do in the first place.

“Teaching an incompatible behaviour to the problem behaviour can be a great way to tackle common issues.

“If a dog is jumping up, scatter food on the floor: their nose will be down sniffing out treats which is incompatible with being up near someone’s face and jumping! They are also getting rewarded for keeping their 4 paws on the floor which over time will become their new behaviour. Dog barks at the postman? Teach them to lie quietly on the bed where they will get a tasty chew.”

While small, soft treats are perfect for training and teaching tricks as canines can eat them quickly, longer lasting treats such as biscuits can be ideal when teaching pooches to be calm around visitors. Giving a long-lasting biscuit or chew on their bed when people arrive can also help dogs learn to settle and relax in a set area rather than jumping all over guests. It is all about choosing the right kind of treat depending on the situation or environment.

Although dogs only have about one-sixth of the number of taste buds that humans have, we can’t help but wonder if our pooches have snack preferences.

Ali Smith was able to shed some light on the subject. According to Ali, our furry friends tend to favour flavours of liver or whole proteins such as chicken and ham. However, it is worth keeping in mind that some treats are definitely healthier than others. Just like human food, the less processed, the better: recognisable ingredients are always a good sign!

The team at Benchmark Kennels decided to do some digging. We asked 300 dog owners for their pooches’ favourite snacks and compiled a comprehensive list of dogs’ favourite alternative treats.

Just as Ali Smith predicted, the dogs were chicken lovers, with over 1 in 5 of owners voting this popular poultry as the treat that their pooch gets most excited for. Dogs are not bothered about whether the chicken is freeze-dried, baked, or boiled, so don’t bother with any elaborate cooking, these pooches are easily pleased.

The second most popular snacks were hot dogs and sausages, without onion and garlic of course which are harmful for dogs. This quintessential American delicacy was suggested by almost 1 in 6 fur-parents. In fact, Rachel Rodgers recommends using this food as a training incentive. “Small pieces (no larger than your small finger nail) of hot dog or ham can be really good high value treats for training.” However, Rachel also warns that meat products with a high salt content are harmful for our doggos and should be avoided. To be safe, stick to reduced fat and salt hot dogs, with no garlic or onion powder flavouring.

Dogs favourite snacks, as chosen by 300 dogs

1 – Chicken (freeze-dried, baked, or boiled) – 61 (20.3%)

2 – Hot dog/sausage (no onion/garlic) – 47 (15.7%)

3 – Cheese – 46 (15.3%)

4 – Beef liver (freeze-dried, baked, or boiled) – 43 (14.3%)

5 – Kibble – 35 (11.7%)

6 – Salmon jerky (freeze dried fish or skin) – 26 (8.7%)

Joint 7 – Carrot – 21 (7%)

Joint 7 – Beef jerky (no additives/salt) – 21 (7%)

Joint 7 – Ice cubes – 21 (7%)

8 – Peanut butter (no Xylitol) – 20 (6.7%)

*The research totals 341 treats chosen – some dogs recalled equally effectively for multiple treats.

Although dogs are the biggest human food enthusiasts, it is best to be careful and research foods before offering them to pooches. Rachel Rodgers warns:

“There are certain human foods which would be toxic and dangerous to give to our dogs. Any foods containing chocolate, raisins, grapes etc. need to be avoided as this could have deadly consequences to the dog. Other human foods are ok to give dogs but in small quantities.”

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